How To Spend The PERFECT 3 Days In Chiang Mai
September 18, 2022
Thailand
By guy yefet
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Spending 3 days in Chiang Mai? This Chiang Mai travel blog is all you need to plan a perfect trip, Things to do in Chiang Mai, where to stay, and more!

How To Spend 3 Days In Chiang Mai

Welcome to Chiang Mai!

Chiang Mai is the capital of the north and the second largest city in Thailand.

After spending 4 days in Bangkok, I took a train to Chiang Mai.

Chiang Mai is also known as the temple capital of Thailand.

Every corner you look in the city, you will probably see a temple.

The city of Chiang Mai will take you on a magical journey into the past, many cultures have passed through the city, and the proof of this is the old city walls that surround the city center which was built about 1,000 years ago.

Chiang Mai is a combination of culture, merging with the endless green nature that surrounds the city.

Many travelers usually start the trip to Thailand in Chiang Mai, something calm before the "carnival" in the islands of Thailand.

chiang mai thailand

Plan your Chiang Mai itinerary:

How to get to Chiang Mai?

Chiang Mai is the largest and most visited city in northern Thailand.

It is considered the capital of the north.

You can get to Chiang Mai in three ways:

Flight - the easiest and most convenient way, but also the most expensive.

The flight time from Bangkok to Chiang Mai is about an hour, and you can order a ticket through one of the domestic airlines that operate in Thailand; Air Asia, Thai Airways, Bangkok Airways, and Nok Air.

Please note that Nok Air and AirAsia flights depart from Bangkok's old airport, Don Mueang (DMK), which means that if you have booked an international flight to Thailand at BKK airport, and you have a connecting flight to Chiang Mai, you will need to take a shuttle bus or taxi to DMK.

There are regular flights between Chiang Mai and other cities in Thailand such as Koh Samui and Phuket, and flights from Chiang Mai to other destinations in Asia like Singapore, Hong Kong, Shanghai, Seoul, and more.

Bus - A bus from Bangkok to Chiang Mai leaves at least once an hour, and the journey takes about 12 hours.

It is recommended to take an air-conditioned VIP bus, whose prices range from 600-800 baht.

Take a bus that leaves around 18:00 so that it will be a night trip and you won't waste an entire day traveling.

Please note: keep valuables close to you and not in the trunk.

There is no shortage of thefts on tourist buses, and the thieves have also learned to pick locks on bags and suitcases.

Train - Six trains leave every day from Hua Lampong station to Chiang Mai, from 06:30 to 21:00. The length of the trip is between 12-14 hours, and the cost of the ticket is between 900-1200 baht (depending on the class).

When it comes to an overnight trip, it is recommended to take an air-conditioned sleeper in first class, for maximum comfort.

Click here to book the transportation from Bangkok to Chiang Mai

train from bangkok to chiang mai

Best time to visit Chiang Mai

The weather in Thailand is divided between the dry season and the rainy season.

the dry season

The dry season is also the cold season, and in Chiang Mai, it ranges from October to March.

In these six months, there are differences between the daytime and the evening weather, which means that it is much colder in the evening.

Between October and February, you will find months Relatively cold, but rain will not catch you.

One of the nice things to do in February is to go to the flower festival, where, among other things, a colorful flower exhibition crosses the city.

Another event that takes place during this period is Thai Independence Day which takes place in mid-April, while in Chiang Mai, it gets a significant presence - the locals crowd the restaurants and markets and the whole city turns into one big water party.

the rainy season

Thailand's wet season is also the hot season and ranges from July to October.

These months are quite rainy, and the temperatures may even be high.

At the same time, a feeling of humidity surrounds the whole environment.

chiang mai

How to get from the airport in Chiang Mai to the city center?

Chiang Mai airport is very close to the city center (old city). The field is less than 2 km from the western side of the old city, so you can even reach it on foot, but why do it with luggage?

Taxi

From the airport, there are taxis that take a private ride to any point in the old city for 160 baht. There are also metered taxis with a similar price.

SongTaew

They cost 40 baht per passenger to get to the old city, but you have to wait for one to be full of passengers for it to leave, and by then you may get discouraged and prefer to take a private taxi because they are not expensive, after all.

Blue bus (City Bus)

It costs 20 baht and the frequency is every 20 minutes. The bus arrives in the old city after a small detour.

The main problem is that you will not easily find the bus at the airport because there are no clear signs and also because all the airport employees will encourage you to take a taxi.

How to get around Chiang Mai?

There are many options for getting around in Chiang Mai, from the traditional ones like Tuktuk to the modern ones like Uber.

Motorcycle - you can rent a bike (but remember that the city is  busy, and it is not the best and most pleasant place to ride, especially if this is your first time on a motorcycle)

Tuk-Tuk - The tuk-tuk is considered a symbol of Thailand, and if you are there for the first time, you will hop on it for at least one ride.

Even in Chiang Mai, you can get around the city by tuk-tuk.

They have different prices, and it is always advisable to bargain.

Songthaew - a large red van that can accommodate many people.

The Songthaew went around and picked up passengers at every opportunity. A cheap and convenient option - I used them a lot.

Taxi - more pleasant and personal (and not in the open air like the Tuk-To) but more expensive (a cheaper option is Uber)

By foot - a great option for those who want to discover Chiang Mai and walk around the city.

tuk tuk in chiang mai

How many days to spend in Chiang Mai?

3 days in Chiang Mai is the ideal time to visit the city.

In two full days, you can get an impression of the old city and the magical temples, take a cooking course, volunteer at a rehabilitative elephant farm, and soak up the atmosphere in Chiang Mai.

On the third day, you will have enough time to experience the impressive Doi Inthanon National Park.

chiang mai asia

Where to stay in Chiang Mai?

There are lots of options in great price ranges for accommodation in the Chiang Mai area. There are so many styles that you can get confused, everyone has to find what suits them.

In Chiang Mai, I recommend sleeping in these areas: the old city, near the river, and the night bazaar.

budget

Stamps Backpackers Hostel

One of the best hostels in Thailand! Excellent location. Great staff that makes you feel comfortable and makes sure you are satisfied.
A great place to meet people from all over the world, especially if you are traveling alone. A refreshing and fun mixing of cultures!

check availability & rates

mid-range

POR Thapae Gate

an intimate hotel with a beautiful pool.
The hotel is very environmentally friendly. You will have free water, fruit, and coffee all day long.
The location is close to a couple of great restaurants and most of the tourist attractions!

check availability & rates

luxury

Baan Boo Loo Village

A magical hotel in the heart of Chiang Mai.
The accommodation includes breakfast, but there is a shared kitchen where you can treat yourself to a drink or a snack at any time.
The rooms are individually decorated and feature teak furniture and Thai textiles, as well as a seating area and an en suite bathroom.

check availability & rates

3 day Chiang Mai itinerary

Day 1

Visit the best temples in Chiang Mai

There are hundreds of temples in Chiang Mai, as well as in its surroundings.

Some of them are important to the locals, and some attract crowds of visitors.

tample view in chiang mai

Here is a short list of some of the recommended ones to visit, temples in Chiang Mai that you should not miss:

Wat Phra That Doi Suthep

This temple, as mentioned, is among the most important temples in all of Thailand and as such is at the top of the list.

To get to the top of the mountain, wherever it is, you can use a rented scooter or do it as part of a day trip, which of course includes direct access to the entrance.

There is a climb of 309 steps, from which you can see the spectacular views of the city from the northwest and the beauty that surrounds it.

The highest point in the park is 1,685 meters high, making it the eighth-highest peak in Thailand.

chiang mai visit
tample in chiang mai

Wat Chedi Luang

If you are short on time and want to take the opportunity to visit another unique temple, this temple is one of the recommended in the city and is located in the center of the old city within walking distance of most of its hotels and popular markets.

The word Luang in the local language means "very large", and indeed the central structure of the place is enormous.

The highest point of the temple is 80 meters high, making it the highest point in the old city of Chiang Mai.

The temple itself dates back to 1385, but since then it has undergone renovations and changes.

In the past, it was the home of the Buddha statue made of emerald which is now in the Grand Palace in Bangkok.

The temple is open to visitors every day from 06:00 in the morning until 17:00.

Wat Phra Singh

Thanks to the massive renovation that this temple underwent in the 19th century, and later the correction of some paint defects, it is considered one of the most impressive temples in Chiang Mai, in terms of its visual and design aspects.

The main building is the highlight when visiting the place, this, among other things, thanks to its sloping roofs and spectacular facade.

The place is open to visitors every day from 06:00 in the morning until 17:00.

Wat Suan Dok

Compared to the other temples of Chiang Mai, it is among the least known temples.

It is located just outside the city walls and was built in the late 14th century by the King of Chiang Mai.

The visitors can take a meditation class, which is held there on Tuesdays, Thursdays, and Saturdays between 5:30 and 9:00 p.m.

tample in chiang mai

Learn about the Thai culture

Another place worth visiting in the old city of Chiang Mai is the Lanna museum.

This fascinating museum presents the life of the Lena people, residents of northern Thailand. It teaches a lot about their customs, culture, and their long-standing heritage.

The museum building has been renovated and is now seen as a building designed in a colonial style.

The museum is open to visitors from Tuesday to Sunday, from 08:30 to 17:00.

chiang mai 2 days

Take a cooking class

After you have been impressed by the ancient temples of Chiang Mai and its fascinating history, you can join a cooking class and taste the delicious delicacies of Chiang Mai.

Very few cuisines in the world can compete with fine and richly flavored Thai cuisine.

One of the most tourist attractions in Chiang Mai is participation in a cooking class.

The food in northern Thailand is diverse, delicious, and inspired by neighboring countries, and at the same time, different from the food in southern Thailand, so many tourists take cooking courses in Chiang Mai, which is known for its excellent schools.

Chiang Mai is one of the best places to learn the secrets of Thai cuisine and has many cooking schools where you can participate in daily (or longer) cooking workshops and learn how to prepare local dishes. In the several-hour workshops, you will learn to prepare classic dishes such as tom yum soup, pad thai and green curry, and the delicious sticky rice and mango dessert.

End your day by wandering around the night bazaar

A cheap and lively market where you can find everything - wooden products, bags, clothes and shoes, watches, paintings, music, art objects, sculptures, tribal handicrafts, souvenirs, and thousands of other things that come to your mind.

The market is large, the stalls are beautiful, and it is very crowded, but it is pleasant to walk around, and it is cheap to buy there.

The market also offers attractive food stalls built around a huge seating area.

Many of the stalls are repetitive, so don't rush to buy. Be sure to bargain and expect discounts of 30-70%.

It is also interesting to see all the artists when they paint or carve magnificent works of art before your eyes.

The market is the icing on the cake in the city, and it is recommended to visit it every evening.

Don't forget to drink great smoothies and eat Banana Lotti.

chiang mai bazzar

Open every day from sunset to 23:00.

The recommended time to arrive is around 19:00.

Day 2

Buathong Falls

There are many waterfalls in northern Thailand, but the Buathong waterfalls are beautiful and unusual. You won't see them anywhere else in Thailand, so it is highly recommended to visit them as part of a trip to the north and enjoy this experience.

Buathong Falls is on the southern side of the Sri Lanna Reserve, about an hour and a half drive from the city of Chiang Mai and within the beautiful green nature of the reserve.

The waterfalls were nicknamed sticky waterfalls due to a unique phenomenon.

Limestone rocks with a mineral that causes them to become rough surfaces with an extraordinary grip. A white substance that looks like a stiff sponge and allows the feet to "stick" to these surfaces.

     

Unlike other waterfalls where the water falls from a height into a pool of water - Bua Thong waterfalls have three steps, and the water flows diagonally downhill.

The structure and texture of the rocks on which algae does not grow together with the slope of the waterfall makes it possible to climb these waterfalls and hence the origin of the nickname "the sticky waterfalls". The waterfall also has ropes that you can use while climbing.

 

Besides the color and beauty of the place - white rocks in the green nature - the possibility of climbing up the waterfall is what makes the place unique and from where the nickname "the sticky waterfalls" comes from - you can climb up the waterfall as all the visitors do and feel like Spider-Man.

waterfall in chiang mai

Visit elephant sanctuary

Those who want an amazing experience (and non-abusive!) That includes elephants having the option of visiting an elephant sanctuary or volunteering at this type of place.

In response to the moral problems with the animals, and in an attempt to compensate for the long-standing abuse of elephants, rehabilitation farms began to open in Thailand which is a refuge for elephants exploited in the tourist industry.

The elephant farm in Chiang Mai is considered a much friendlier attraction for elephants, and as part of it, the tourists shower the elephants, feed them and spend several hours with them.

There are half-day, two-day itineraries and also itineraries that include one night's accommodation.

Keep in mind that there are places that advertise themselves as "rehabilitation farms" but offer activities such as riding elephants. Therefore, check them carefully before you go there.

Click here to order a ticket to the rehabilitation elephant farm.

elephant sanctuary chiang mai

Eat Khao Soi - the flagship dish of Northern Thailand

This dish is so delicious and light that you can eat it every day and you won't get tired of it.

The dish is served as a type of soup with boiled egg noodles, fried rice noodles, lime, shallots, pickles, and chili with meat or chicken in a curry sauce with coconut milk.

Because the dish is considered street food, it is extremely cheap and tasty.

Nimmanhaemin street

Nimmanhaemin Road is the most fashionable part of Chiang Mai.

Full of high-class restaurants and bars, the side streets are also full of them.

There is a new mall at one end of the road.

The mall contains many designer stores, as well as a cinema, and several restaurants.

The chicest area in the city that comes alive at night with bars, clubs and restaurants, live music, and concerts, is where most of the locals go.

The clubs and bars on this street are considered to be of the highest quality.

chiang mai tamlpe

Day 3

Doi Inthanon National Park

It is one of the most popular national parks in Thailand.

It is located in a large area on the highest mountain in Thailand (2595 meters) and is humid and cool all year round.

The locals call it "the roof of Thailand".

The park has a variety of sites, waterfalls (which are at their best from May to November), hiking trails, observation points, pagodas, and tribal villages.

Due to the height of the park, it is better to wear long clothes in the winter months.

Because of its size, the only way to travel is by car, and it is better to avoid visiting on weekends and during holidays because then it is too busy.

You can travel in an independent reserve with a car or join an organized trip from Chiang Mai, which includes transportation, guidance, sites, lunch, and drinks.

The visit to the reserve takes a whole day!

The recommended time for the magical experience ranges from a day trip (usually 8:00-17:00) to a weekend and even longer.

If you choose a day trip to the reserve, you can join one of the organized trips that go to the place.

click here to book a guided tour to Doi Inthanon National Park

Opening hours of the park: every day from 05:30-18:30.

My recommendation: whether you come to the reserve through an organized trip or independently, devote enough time to this beautiful reserve, travel leisurely, and don't try to do everything in a single hour.

A visit to the Doi Inthanon Nature Reserve only to take a picture near the summit and some waterfall - simply a miss of visiting the place!

Where to eat in Chiang Mai?

In Chiang Mai, you can find a wide variety of great food of different types, from local food in markets and street stalls such as Pad Thai, various local meats, and especially desserts such as "banana loti" and sticky rice with mango, to restaurants serving western food and western chains such as McDonald's S, Burger King, Subway, Starbucks and more.

The food in northern Thailand is inspired by countries that border the region, so there are slight differences between the style of food in northern Thailand and the south of Thailand.

For example, Khao Soi is not the usual curry that is common all over Thailand, but a thinner curry, more like a soup.

Khao Soi Khun Yai - a simple restaurant, but excellent and always busy! Cao Sui with chicken costs 30 baht here, and the larger portion costs 35 baht. You can also order it with pork or beef. Besides Khao Soi, there are other noodle dishes and delicious natural juice for 15 baht.

Highly recommended!

Khao Soi Islam - is a famous restaurant near the river, Warurat market, and the mosque. The place is run by a Thai Muslim and serves a variety of great food with a Muslim influence.

Besides Khao Sui, which is the best-selling dish there, he also has an excellent Masaman beef curry, dumplings, chicken satay, and more.

Khao Soi Wua Lai - is a famous restaurant among the locals, and less so among the tourists. It is located on Wulai Street, which is also the shopping street on Sundays. The restaurant is simple and the sign with the name is in Thai.

Inside there are wooden chairs and tables. You will be able to notice the restaurant because it is the only one that is always full of people and also slides into the street.

Ristr8to Coffee -  The best coffee place in Chiang Mai. The owner specialized in coffee for years in Australia and then brought the art of coffee to Chiang Mai. There is an air-conditioned area and an outside area in the sun. Usually, the restaurant is always full.

chiang mai food market

Festivals in Chiang Mai

Flower Festival (February)

Every beginning of February, there is a spectacularly beautiful flower festival in Chiang Mai, during which the entire city center blooms and is painted with bright colors.

The purpose of the festival is to celebrate, of course, the blooming of the tropical flowers that are characteristic of northern Thailand. During the three days in which it is celebrated, there are, among other things, a host of flower displays, flower beauty contests, sales of handmade items, and more.

The festival atmosphere is complemented by the locals with food stalls, entertainment, and music shows.

Thai Independence Day (mid-April)

The biggest celebration in Thailand comes in full force to Chiang Mai - the parties become bigger and more boisterous, the locals flood the markets and restaurants en masse, and above all the city becomes one big water celebration. Put on a bathing suit, leave your belongings at the hotel, and go out to participate in a huge water war - buckets, water guns, hoses, and whatnot on every street corner.

The Lantern Festival of Chiang Mai (end of November)

The Lantern Festival of Chiang Mai continues an ancient local tradition and is the northern Thai version of the famous Loi Krathong ("Loi = light kartong = floating") celebrations that are celebrated throughout Thailand.

According to the belief, the blossoming of the blossoming balls to the sky brings with them all the troubles and difficulties of man's day to day.

Various cultural events are held at the festival, including balloon-blossom competitions, light and sound parades, raft and row boat sailing competitions, and small lighted raft-floating competitions usually made of banana tree leaves and called Krathong in Thai.

festival in chiang mai
chiang mai lantren
chiang mai festival

Extras for your Chiang Mai itinerary:

The best day trips from Chiang Mai

Go for a hike in the mountains

In Chiang Mai, there are many options for trekking in the mountains. It is possible to do a trek for one day or several days. It is best to go with an organized company for the trek and not independently since not all the paths are marked, and it is easy to get lost there.

In addition, there are places where you cannot enter without a special entry permit that only companies have.

Bo Sang Umbrella Village

The village has been known, for hundreds of years, as a place for the production of colorful parasols and umbrellas, not only throughout Thailand but throughout the world. So much so that Chiang Mai has become associated with the same metrics. Here you will find a lot of beautiful umbrellas, of all sizes and types and other handmade works made of paper, at excellent prices.

A day trip to Chiang Rai and the Golden Triangle

The Golden Triangle, known among the locals as "Sop Ruak" is a forested mountainous area in the northern part of Thailand, where it meets Laos and Myanmar (hence the name "Golden Triangle").

Despite the charged and complex history of the area, the Golden Triangle is considered a prominent and important tourist destination, one that attracts crowds of visitors throughout the year, visitors of all ages who come for a short or long vacation.

The spectacular views it offers, the coffee plantations, the traditional villages where time seems to have stood still and the winding rivers, all these and more make it a stopping point that should not be missed and one of the most beautiful places in Thailand.

Click here to book a day trip to Chiang Rai and the Golden Triangle.

chiang rai

Rules of conduct in temples

The list of recommended temples to visit in the city is endless, but some stand out in it that you should not miss. Although it is a tourist attraction for all intents and purposes, let's not forget that first of all it is a sacred place for the locals and also for quite a few visitors, who travel a long way to reach that temple.

Therefore, before you set out, and take out your camera or phone to take a picture, you must know a few things:

First, you must respect the place, the tradition, and the other visitors and locals. Dress in modest clothes (this is not the time to wear flip-flops, wear a tank top or a short dress), and keep in mind that there are temples with a strict dress code (you cannot reach them with bare shoulders or knees - relevant for both men and women).

Wear shoes that are easy for you to take off since at the entrance to the temples you will have to take them off and leave them outside.

Check in advance what the entry hours are and arrive according to the announcements.

When you enter, be careful not to turn your back to the Buddha (unacceptable and inappropriate) or point your feet directly at the various Buddha statues.

If you are debating what is right and what is not right, watch the locals and wait for their behavior or, before entering, find out what the local rules are.

You can go to certain temples as part of guided tours, which will provide you with a lot of important information about each temple and help you better understand the local culture.

If you do not find such a tour and you want to go to the place independently, read about the history and the temple before your visit.

nice tample in chiang mai

Chiang Mai Travel tips

1. It is highly recommended to visit the Sunday night market.

The Sunday night market is a colorful market spread along some of the streets of the old city of Chiang Mai.

The market is very different from the night market that is open every day in that it is much bigger, and sellers from all over the Chiang Mai district come to it. (The main entrance from the THA PAE gate)

2. For those arriving by bus/night train from Bangkok - as soon as you set foot outside the station, you will be jumped by tuk-tuk drivers who will be very happy to take you to a certain guesthouse.

Check carefully what is being offered to you, sometimes these are scams that will bring you to particularly expensive or bad places.

3. Some of the attractions in the area include a disgraceful treatment of animals (especially riding elephants or visiting the tiger kingdom), the animals are kept in bad conditions, and sometimes the guides beat them until they bleed. You may prefer that your money not help fund it.

4. Look twice when crossing the road - in Chiang Mai, there is probably no right of way for pedestrians, and if you break into the road or try to cross the road thinking that the cars on the way will stop you, think twice.

5. Beware of renting scooters in Chiang Mai!

If you have no experience riding a scooter and you are not an experienced rider, it is better to use another type of transportation.

6. Thieves and pickpockets - in the night market and other markets in Chiang Mai where there is a density of tourists there are always professional pickpockets who try to rob innocent tourists.

Therefore, always pay attention to your valuables and stay away from anything that seems suspicious to you.

chiang mai travel

Final thoughts after 3 days in Chiang mai

Chiang Mai is a magical place, it is not exactly the Thailand we imagine when we think of the land of white beaches and clear waters.

Chiang Mai is a different and unusual city. Calm, stunning, and spiritual, and definitely suitable as a destination for a soft landing before moving to the islands in the south.

Chiang Mai is suitable and very convenient for family trips and for young people who want to experience something different, to try to get to know Thai culture more closely.

chaing mai monk

I hope this 3 days in Chiang mai itinerary will help you plan your next trip to Chiang mai, and I am sure you will enjoy!

Thanks for reading!

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